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Daniels v. Superintendent

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

April 3, 2017

RAMAR DANIELS, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William C. Lee, Judge United States District Court

         Ramar Daniels, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging WCC-15-11-0231, a prison disciplinary proceeding held at the Westville Correctional Facility on November 23, 2015, where a disciplinary hearing officer found him guilty of Threatening in violation of B-213. The sanctions imposed included a 90 day loss of earned credit time.

         This charge was initiated when Administrative Assistant T. Cambe wrote a conduct report:

On the above date and time [November 16, 2015, 0730] I (Mr. T. Cambe) did receive a returned grievance from Ramar Daniels #104542 in the grievance mailbox. The correspondence written by the offender states, “To: T. Cambe, you fag, remember my name and remember my E.P.R.D. And please understand bitch you can't write me up when I get out, so keep playing your little ass games”.

(DE 7-1.)

         Daniels submitted a Request for Interview form addressed to Cambe dated November 19, 2015, and stated:

Yea, fag I got your conduct report lying talking about I threaten your bitch ass. Cracker, tell them you feel scared so I can get transferred to a different facility cause that's what I want. So I'll just use your lying cracker ass to get what I want. Since I can't get you to process my grievance and all you bitches like lying, transfer me or put me on lockup. Bitch you can't teach me shit, I don't respect you Fag.

(DE 7-3.)

         The screening report reflects that he was notified of the offense on November 19, 2015. (DE 7-4.) He pled not guilty, and requested a lay advocate. He did not request any witnesses, but did request the dictionary definition of “threat.” (Id.)

         Daniels refused to cooperate in the hearing process and the hearing was conducted without him on November 23, 2015. (DE 7-6.) Daniels alleged the hearing officer was racist and biased and requested another hearing officer. That request was denied. After considering the staff reports, the grievance and the Request for Interview form, the hearing officer found Daniels guilty of Threatening, in violation of B-213. (Id.) Daniels's appeals to the facility head and the final reviewing authority were denied. (DE 7-7; 7-8; 7-9.)

         When prisoners lose earned time credits in a prison disciplinary hearing, they are entitled to certain protections under the Due Process Clause: (1) advance written notice of the charges; (2) an opportunity to be heard before an impartial decision maker; (3) an opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in defense when consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals; and (4) a written statement by a fact finder of evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563 (1974). To satisfy due process, there must also be “some evidence” to support the hearing officer's decision. Superintendent, Mass. Corr. Inst. v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985).

         Here, Daniels raises three claims in his petition: (1) the evidence was insufficient; (2) he was not allowed to participate in the hearing; and (3) he was denied evidence in violation of DOC policy.

         First, Daniels claims there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty of threatening. In reviewing a disciplinary determination for sufficiency of the evidence, “courts are not required to conduct an examination of the entire record, independently assess witness credibility, or weigh the evidence, but only determine whether the prison disciplinary board's decision to revoke good time credits has some factual basis.” McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d 784, 786 (7th Cir. 1999). “[T]he relevant question is whether there is any evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.” Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455-56 (1985). The court will overturn the hearing officer's decision only if “no reasonable adjudicator could have found [the prisoner] guilty of the offense on the basis of the evidence presented.” Henderson v. United States Parole Comm'n, 13 F.3d 1073, 1077 (7th Cir. 1994). Additionally, a hearing officer is permitted to rely on circumstantial evidence to establish guilt. See Hamilton v. O'Leary, 976 F.2d 341, 345 (7th Cir. 1992).

         Daniels's argues that his statements to Cambe do not amount to threatening. Threatening, offense B-213, prohibits communicating to another person a plan to physically harm, harass, or intimidate that person or someone else. (DE 8 at 7.) (Citing the Adult Disciplinary Process for Offenses within the Indiana Department of Corrections). It was reasonable for the hearing officer to conclude that Daniels threatened Cambe. Although Daniels did not explicitly threaten Cambe with physical violence, the conduct report reveals that Daniels called Cambe a “bitch” and told Cambe that he should remember his name and his earliest possible release date. This can be reasonably interpreted as a plan to harm, harass or intimidate Cambe. Thus, the record contains “some evidence” to support the hearing officer's determination that Daniels was guilty of threatening. The conduct report is some evidence that Daniels threatened Cambe. McPherson, 188 F.3d at 786 (7th Cir. 1999) (conduct report alone provided some evidence to support disciplinary determination). This conclusion is bolstered by Daniels' vitriolic statements in the ...


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